Today, let’s explore a beautiful paradox in achieving your goals and visions.
Simply put –
The bigger the vision, the smaller your projects (or steps) need to be.
Too often I have seen multi-year projects and programs of work that aim to achieve an executive’s vision in one big push. These projects rarely succeed.
A recent public example of this is the NSW Department of Education’s LMBR project. The mega-project aimed to replace the legacy finance, human resources, payroll and student administration systems in place across the state’s 2208 public schools. It commenced in 2006 with an anticipated spend of $386 million and completion by end 2014. In December 2018 it was finally marked as ‘done’ – at 4 years longer and $369 million more than planned. There’s also very little discussion on whether the project achieved any of the originally forecast business benefits.
Typically Big Vision + Big Project = A sub-standard result or worse, failure.
Why do we do it? Why do we create these monsters?
Maybe it’s ego, or perhaps it’s the mental convenience of bundling it all together with a big metaphorical ribbon – either way we need to stop it.
Big visions require bigger risks. Big visions necessitate larger degrees of change. Big visions are often loose and are limited by the planning horizon (i.e. the value of a plan reduces the further you go from the current day). Big visions require lots of little failures.
So I’m sure you are now guessing what we need to do instead.
Yes, you guessed it – small projects!
One step at a time.
Not only will you strip out complexity and unnecessary work, but you will maintain momentum by driving regular results.
Small projects also mean that you can shift from a failure-penalising culture to one that embraces failure as part of the learning process.
So how small is small? Some rules of thumb –
- Use logic – don’t try to plan every moment. Two to three high value things each iteration.
- Target the immediate quick wins and tackle them with ferocity – get momentum on your side.
- If you cannot clearly see the path to the end of the project – it’s probably too big.
- The greater the risk to the business, the smaller your steps need to be.
Big visions change the world (or as a minimum your organisation),
So put momentum on your side!
Take small steps and you will achieve that big vision faster than you realise.
Your Action Plan:
Keep the planning horizon in mind when you are building your project bids. Resist the temptation to go for all funding at once, inadvertently creating a monster project.